Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tino Sehgal, Yes it is and also the end of this progress

Walking towards me, a small-looking kid asks about “what is progression?” I answered, “Progression is change. Changing hegemony, changing situation, and changing thought.” He then accompanied me to a quarter of the hallway and introduced me to a teenager. The young guy asked me about myself and how I define change. I replied, “Change always happens around us.” And I gave him examples based on what I am studying now and specific incidents, which have changed me; such as my time in the army and my education. The teenage boy then introduced me to another guy. He seems like he is in his 30s. He talks about how much we are dominated by technology, how we feel relieved under the influence of technology, and how we can’t live without technology. I answer that I experienced life without technology a few weeks ago when I was not able to access to the internet. I was feeling depressed, unease and anxious. After I was able to regain access to the internet, I realized that there was nothing happening to me on the internet and there was no important massage waiting for me. After explaining my experience, he took me further along the hallway and introduced me to an older guy. The old man spoke about his memory. His grandfather had come from Belarus before the Second World War began. When he went to Belarus the first time, he visited a town where his grandfather lived and went to the World War II memorial park. At the park his guide said, “ there you are”. There were a lot of carved names on a large marble plate, one of which was his last name. He said that he was shocked because in his culture he exists on his own as an individual entity, the only one in the world. But for the guide, he was a link in the chain of his families history, which was in itself a chain linked to the world. Eventually the old man left, leaving me alone with my thoughts and a little piece of the hallway to walk and think alone in.

This whole process of meeting people and engaging strangers in conversation is Tino Sehgal’s work, ‘Yes it is, and also the end of this progress.’ This piece is performed at the Guggenheim Museum the space of the spiral hallways. It was very interesting to me to have conversations with strangers in a gallery space. Usually conversation, even among friends, within the traditional white cube space of the museum is not promoted. This new experience was poetic for me, starting at the ground level and engaging in these conversations on my way to the top, starting with a kid and ending my journey with the old man.

I would also like to talk about the atmosphere which starts with audience participation and ends in thought. Therefore, it cannot exist without an audience who because of their participation straddle the line between performers and audience through their interaction between the space and other people. When I asked people about the work after we left, dominant answer was ‘I’m not sure’. It is a difficult piece to understand because they are talking about pure sensorial experience rather than cognitive experience. Therefore, we can feel it but we cannot understand it. And it is true that through participating in the whole piece of work, we can experience something different from everyday life. In terms of revealing something beyond the relations, it is still connected with a traditional roll of art. Tino Sehgal shows us what we are missing in our everyday lives. If it is performed on Times Square or Union Square, I am not sure that I would have the same feeling that I experienced via its performance at the Guggenheim Museum. So, like many Modernists before him, Sehgal re-contextualized the traditional white cube museum space into an interactive social space.

Beomdo Seo

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